Yarrabin Road resident Stephanie Newman is working to educate her community about wind farms before the Uungula Wind Farm is established west of Mudgee and Gulgong.
Ms Newman and many of her neighbours signed agreements allowing Wind Prospect to investigate their properties as possible sites for turbines as part of the proposed wind farm.
When it was announced that the project would go ahead, Ms Newman started her own investigation into wind power, and was concerned to find that the turbines’ turning blades would produce a low, persistent whir, “like a jet that never lands,” and a swishing and thumping that would persist more than 21 hours a day.
One Victorian farmer living near turbines said, “It started with the headaches and the tingling in the head, and then eventually the sleep problems… eventually I had heart palpitations.”
Most worryingly, Ms Newman found the noise would affect neighbours who weren’t part of the project, who might be surrounded on three sides by turning turbines but had never been told the wind farm was coming.
At this point, she asked herself whether she could put her neighbours in that position.
Ms Newman compiled a double-sided information sheet which she distributed along Yarrabin Road to ensure that everyone was aware of the wind farm’s approach and its possible repercussions.
As a science teacher for more than 40 years, Ms Newman said she understood and supported renewable energy, and she appreciated the financial benefits for long suffering farmers being offered up to $17,500 per turbine for potentially 10 or more turbines.
She said the tug-o’-war between clean energy and the health of affected residents made the issue more complicated than simply being for or against renewable energy.
On her information sheet, she quoted a report prepared for a group opposing a Victorian wind farm, which said, “It is debatable whether paying for what is a genuine public good – greenhouse gas abatement – should fall so disproportionately on so few.”
The turbine towers at Uungula will range from 80m to 100m tall, with the turning blades adding a further 40m to 60m to their height.
A turbine’s installation will also require the construction of an access road of crushed rock taken from the property, and overhead cables where the ground is too rocky to bury them.
Council has no authority over the project’s approval, which is handled directly by the state planning department, and even the NSW government is still developing its wind farm guidelines.
Ms Newman said comprehensive testing for Australian conditions had not been completed, and was essential, because wind, landforms and climate affected the way the noise carries.